Sports Medicine

What is Sports Medicine?

If you have suffered a sports injury, you may be wondering where you can receive the best treatment. Here at Valley Sports Physicians & Orthopedic Medicine we serve patients from Hartford, Avon and New Haven, CT. If you are suffering from problems such as Achilles tendon injuries, bursitis, cartilage injuries, golfer’s elbow, knee injuries or any other sports related issues, we can help you with our non-surgical treatment methods. Read on to understand more about sports medicine in general, our physicians and our doctors’ osteopathic approach to sports medicine.

Sports medicine is that branch of the healing arts profession that utilizes an integrated, comprehensive approach to the prevention, diagnosis, and management of sport- and exercise-related injuries, disorders, dysfunctions, and disease processes.

Yet sports medicine is more than just physical therapy, a knee brace, a cortisone injection, or arthroscopic surgery. While all of these may be important, sports medicine involves knowing not only the athlete but also the sport. What are the demands placed on the athlete's body by a given sport? What specific skills are required to perform a sport? And how does the body respond to these demands and required skills? Knowing this is crucial to understanding not only how injuries occur but also to knowing what the best way to treat them is.

Athletes have medical needs also. Asthma, diabetes, and other medical conditions affect athletes as well as the non-athlete. Yet the athlete often needs special treatment because of the demands he or she places on the body. Physical therapists, chiropractors, and surgeons are not trained to manage these aspects of sports medicine.

What is a Sports Medicine Physician?

The field of sports medicine consists of health care providers who work in synchrony to provide a “team approach” to achieve better health for the patient. At the head of this team of professionals is the physician who diagnoses the condition and directs the treatment plan.

Any doctor can claim to do "sports medicine," but only physicians specially trained in sports medicine are uniquely qualified truly to practice sports medicine.

The evolving standard for sports medicine training is completion of a sports medicine fellowship. A fellowship is a specialized training program completed only after the physician has already done an internship and residency. For example, to become a cardiologist, you first complete a residency in internal medicine, and then you would do a fellowship in cardiology. The same is now true for sports medicine. While there may be many good sports medicine physicians who have not done fellowships, completion of a sports medicine fellowship assures you that the doctor has undertaken a comprehensive and advanced level of specialty training.

In addition, you would also want a physician who is an active member of one of the large national sports medicine organizations. These include:

There are two types of sports medicine physicians: surgeons and non-surgeons. There are also two different types of sports medicine fellowships: surgical and non-surgical (also known as "primary care" fellowships). No surprise here-- surgeons do surgical fellowships, and non-surgeons do primary care fellowships!

Surgical fellows learn the latest and greatest in surgical techniques. Primary care fellows learn everything else! Since over 90% of sports injuries don't require surgery, more and more people—and an increasing number of college and professional teams—are turning to primary care sports medicine specialists. If your problem needs surgery you can always be referred to a surgeon. But if surgery is not indicated—or desired—you will generally be better served by a primary care sports medicine specialist.

For a downloadable PDF file giving a complete definition of a Team Physician, including qualifications, duties, and education, click Team Physician Consensus Statement. This Statement was prepared and adopted by the major national sports medicine organizations.

Our Qualifications

Dr. Tortland is fellowship trained and board certified in Primary Care Sports Medicine. Together with his Physician's Assistant, Rebekah Lehtonen, and our staff of Athletic Trainers, we have the training, skills, and experience to help you with your sports medicine problem.

Osteopathic Approach to Sports Medicine

The Osteopathic physician has a unique role in the total care of the athlete or active patient. Our philosophic approach is patient-, not disease-oriented. This philosophic approach lends itself to the active population, because athletic patients are generally healthy and more motivated to return to better health. Osteopathic sports physicians apply their medical and scientific knowledge based on a philosophy that the athlete’s structure and function are interrelated (see Osteopathic Medicine). Osteopathic physicians must look at the entire scope of an athlete’s problem, including the mechanism of injury, environmental influences, inherent postural and muscle imbalances, the psychological effects of injury and rehabilitation, and finally their safe return to play.

Additionally, palpatory skills (using the hands to help diagnose) provide Osteopathic physicians with a distinct advantage over other health care practitioners in determining the location, extent, and associated manifestations of athletic injury. The Osteopathic philosophy helps us to consider and identify subtle biomechanical factors that can often lead to chronic or recurrent injury. In addition Osteopathic physicians who effectively utilize Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, have another "tool in the toolbox" with which to treat an important component of athletic injury - somatic dysfunction.

History of Osteopathic Sports Medicine

There have been athletes since ancient times and physicians have been caring for them all along the way. Herodicus was a Thracian physician of the fifth century BC. The first use of therapeutic exercise for the treatment of disease and maintenance of health is credited to him, and he is believed to have been one of the tutors of Hippocrates, with whom he supervised the training and care of Olympic athletes. He also recommended good diet and massage using beneficial herbs and oils, and his theories are considered the foundation of sports medicine. The first man to be called a “team physician” was Galen, in the second century AD, when he served as the physician to the Roman gladiators.

A.T. Still, MD (founder of Osteopathic Medicine) in the 1800’s taught the importance of structure and function and the significance of the musculoskeletal system in the maintenance of health. It should surprise no one, that Still and the administration of American School of Osteopathy, encouraged new students, both men and women, to join Athletic Associations. Professional and collegiate sports were just becoming popular at the turn of the 19th century. As Still's reputation grew as a highly skilled practitioner in providing relief of sprains, strains, and dislocations, many injured athletes came to him to be treated. Accordingly, Dr. Still became known as a pioneer in sports medicine.

In 1901 the first athletic director was named at the American School of Osteopathy (ASO) while both intramural and intercollegiate sports, including football, baseball, and basketball, prevailed in Kirksville, MO. The ASO teams were charter members of the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Osteopaths, as they were known, took on major universities including Notre Dame and Nebraska. ASO teams were often very good and gained so much reputation for the school that many famous athletes later came back to attend. The osteopathic physician, Forrest "Phog" Allen, DO (1885-1974), the Hall-of-Fame coach whose Kansas Basketball teams won 771 games during his long career, is probably the best-known sports figure to attend ASO.